Stomp Button, Receive Candy

If there’s any holiday that is worth adjusting for strange times, it’s gotta be Halloween. Are you inclined to leave a bowl of candy on the porch to avoid the doorbell? If so, this is the perfect year to finally figure out some sort of metering apparatus so that greedy preteens are less likely to steal your stash in one sweep. There’s still time to make something fun like [Brankly]’s automatic candy dispenser, which we think ought to stick around for many years to come. Video is posted after the break.

Underneath that skeleton’s jack-o-lantern head is the heart of this build — an orange 5-gallon bucket that matches it perfectly. Simply step on the giant lighted arcade button, and the equally giant NEMA-23 stepper motor moves a 3D-printed turntable inside the bucket with the help of an Arduino Nano. This moves the candy toward the 3D-printed ramp and out the mouth of the jack-o-lantern, where it lands in a bowl that lights up when it hits the bottom thanks to a relay and a second Nano.

[Brankly] made clever use of IR break-beam switches, which sit underneath the two square holes in the ramp. Once candy passes over one of them, the turntable stops and rotates backward to move the candy where it can’t be reached.

Frankly, we love that [Brankly] reused the sound effects module that came with the jack-o-lantern. This build is totally open, and [Brankly] is even giving away 40 PCBs if you want to make your own. For now, you can check out the code and start printing the STLs.

If time is tight, build a spooky slide that puts six feet between you and the trick or treaters.

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Dice Roller Keeps Germs Out Of Your Snake Eyes

Do you need a to find a more sanitary way to roll the dice at your next socially-distanced board game gathering? [CJA3D]’s pop-o-matic mason jar dice roller can roll the bones two different ways — either by hitting that big, inviting arcade button, or though a web app that everyone can access on their own phones.

We think this looks great, and is a great reuse of a glass jar. The brains of this operation is an ESP8266, which drives a continuous-rotation servo underneath the dice. Push the button or use the web app and the servo disturbs the plate, moving the dice around.

Besides the sanitary aspect, one benefit of using the web app is that there are four different speed presets for the servo. As a bonus, [CJA3D] included the files for a pair of printed 6-sided dice. Click through to the project to see it in action.

We know you take games seriously, and so do we. Just look at this dice roller that uses machine vision to ensure fairness.

Panic Button Is An Audio-Visual Parachute Out Of Zoom Calls

Everyone has been learning how to stream this year whether they want to or not. This has given rise to the embarrassment paradox, which states that the more urgently you need to kill your camera and microphone feeds in a videoconference call, the more difficult and time-consuming it will be. Zoom in particular will toggle the mic and camera with keyboard shortcuts, but when your toddler waddles into the room swinging a used diaper around in the air, keyboard shortcuts will seem woefully under-powered.

What you need is a single sturdy button that sends both of these toggle commands as quickly as possible. [Simon Prickett]’s panic switch does exactly that. It’s a delightfully tactile arcade button connected to a Trinket M0, which can emulate a keyboard quite easily as an Arduino or CircuitPython device.

This little keyboard doesn’t send these macros directly, because that would be way too risky. What if you were reading Hackaday instead of staring into the tiled faces of your coworkers? Then it wouldn’t work, because Zoom is out of focus.

Instead, it sends an obscure four-key macro to the computer that triggers an AppleScript. [Simon]’s AppleScript checks to see if Zoom is running. If not, it has the system announce the fact. If it is running, then the script sends cmd+shift+a and cmd+shift+v to Zoom directly to toggle the audio and video. Check out the demo after the break.

As you might expect, we’ve seen a couple of videoconference survival hacks over the past few months. Need to show something or work with your hands, but only have one camera? All you need is a mirror, a clothespin, and a length of wire for a simple split-screen setup.

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Bubbles, The People-Pleasing Pandemic Panda

This year, [Thomas]’ neighborhood has gone from a quiet burg to a bustling lane full of families and children who go out walking for exercise and a change of scenery. Early on, a game emerged to distract children from the pandemic by turning these walks into bear hunts — that is, looking for stuffed bears sitting in the windows of houses and keeping count of them.

With no stuffed bears in the house, he decided to join in the fun by pasting up a 2D panda bear in the window that’s cute enough to calm anyone’s nerves. That was fun for a while, but then he turned it up to eleven by making an interactive 3D version named Bubbles the Bear that blows bubbles and speaks in a friendly voice.

Bubbles sits in a second-story window and waits for passers-by to press one of the buttons mounted on the utility pole below. Both buttons are wired to a 433MHz remote that sends a signal to an ESP32 in Bubbles’ habitat that says it’s time to perform.

We particularly like the bubble maker that [Thomas] designed, which aims a blower fan with an air concentrator at a carousel of 3D printed bubble wands. Both the fan and the carousel can be controlled with a custom web app, and he gets an email every time Bubbles has a visitor that tells him how much bubble liquid is left. Check out the fun-size demo after the break.

Bubbles are fun, especially if you can make them in extremely large quantities. Bubbles can also do work — remember this next time you need a random number generator.

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Electronic Connect Four Has No Pieces To Lose

Recreating classic games in software is a great way to get better at coding or learn to code in the first place. If you do it in hardware though, you’ll gain a lot more than coding skills. Just ask [Kelly] and [Jack] did, when they built this Arduino-based electronic Connect Four for a school project.

We love that their interpretation manages to simplify game play and make it more fun than the original version. All the players have to do is turn it on and start pushing the arcade buttons along the bottom to choose the column where they want to make a play. The LEDs animate from top to bottom to imitate the plastic disc dropping down through the board. If a win is detected — four in a row of the same color going any direction — the board fills up with the winning color and the game starts over.

The state machine doesn’t currently do anything about tie situations, so there’s a reset button hidden on the side. As [Kelly] and [Jack] explain in their walk-through video after the break, that is something they would like to address in the future, along with making it possible to choose whatever battle color you want. We think a reset animation that mimics the look of the discs spilling out the bottom would be cool, too.

If you’ve never implemented a game on hardware before, something like this might be a bit daunting. May we suggest a game of 4×4 Tic Tac Toe instead?

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Build A DSLR Photo Booth The Easy Way

It’s a well-known fact in capitalist societies that any product or service, if being used in a wedding, instantly triples in cost. Wanting to avoid shelling out big money for a simple photo booth for a friend’s big day, [Lewis] decided to build his own.

Wanting a quality photo output, a Canon DSLR was selected to perform photographic duties. An Arduino Nano is then pressed into service to run the show. It’s hooked up to a MAX7219 LED matrix which feeds instructions to the willing participants, who activate the system with a giant glowing arcade button. When pressed, the Nano waits ten seconds and triggers the camera shutter, doing so three times. Images are displayed on a screen hooked up to the camera’s USB HDMI port.

It’s a build that keeps things simple. No single-board PCs needed, just a camera, an Arduino, and a monitor for the display. We’re sure the wedding-goers had a great time, and we look forward to seeing what [Lewis] comes up with next. We’ve seen a few of his hacks around here before, too.

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Billiard Ball Finds A New Home In Custom Trackball Mouse

They walk among us, unseen by polite society. They seem ordinary enough on the outside but they hide a dark secret – sitting beside their keyboards are trackballs instead of mice. We know, it’s hard to believe, but that’s the wacky world we live in these days.

But we here at Hackaday don’t judge based on alternate input lifestyles, and we quite like this billiard ball trackball mouse. A trackball aficionado, [Adam Haile] spotted a billiard ball trackball in a movie and couldn’t resist the urge to make one of his own, but better. He was hoping for a drop-in solution using an off-the-shelf trackball, but alas, finding one with the needed features that fit a standard American 2-1/4″ (57.3 mm) billiard ball. Besides, he’s in the thumb control camp, and most trackballs that even come close to fitting a billiard ball are designed to be fiddled with the fingers.

So he started from the ground up – almost. A 1980s arcade-style trackball – think Centipede or Missile Command – made reinventing the trackball mechanism unnecessary, and was already billiard ball compatible. [Adam] 3D-printed a case that perfectly fit his hand, with the ball right under his thumb and arcade buttons poised directly below his fingers. A palm swell rises up to position the hand naturally and give it support. The case, which contains a Teensy to translate the encoder signals into USB commands, is a bit on the large side, but that’s to be expected for a trackball.

Still curious about how the other half lives? We’ve got plenty of trackball hacks for you, from the military to the game controller embedded to the strangely organic looking.